Tonight, I had a new experience. I attended an advanced screening of a Hollywood movie (thank you Fox Searchlight Screenings), and it was an amazing evening and an amazing movie!!
Gifted is about a man, Frank, and his niece, Mary, and the family dynamics which threw them together and now threaten to tear them apart; family dynamics which predate Mary’s birth. I have read the synopses and watched the trailers and teasers, but nothing prepared me for the emotional roller coaster that this film turned out to be. I have promised no spoilers in this review, so that’s as far as I’m going to go with the storyline. That is what the story is about…it is how it plays out that shatters the audience again and again.
But the character development in this movie was what made it spectacular. One of the characters that I felt might end up being two dimensional was Evelyn, Frank’s mother. She is the protagonist who seems to be trying to tear Frank and Mary apart, and the role could have turned into just another evil stepmother type of role. But Lindsay Duncan gave Evelyn a level of grace that I didn’t expect to see. It made her relationship with her son and her granddaughter even more poignant.
McKenna Grace will be a talent to be watched if this movie is any indication of her future development. Her portrayal of Mary could have broken down so easily into playing the pathetic pawn in an adult game, but she brought forward such depth and richness in the character that she was as easy to love as to hate sometimes. She was cocky and mouthy, sweet and lovable, courageous and intelligent as she was buffeted by the whims of the adults around her.
I’ve left the best, I think, for last. Chris Evans starring role in this film was the reason I went to see it in the first place. I have seen Chris be the only bright spot in some pretty bad movies over the course of his career, and I’ve seen him be part of a cast of exemplary actors in excellent films since his inclusion in the MCU, but his performance in Gifted may just be the best performance I’ve seen from him. Again, it is a role that could very easily have been wooden and uninspiring. Frank is rough; he has dirt under his nails; he lives with his niece in a tiny dive of a house. But there is much more to him than meets the eye at first, and as you get to know him, you realize just what a trust he has taken from his sister, and the sacrifices he’s had to make to keep his word to her.
I have heard others say that this movie may be Oscar-worthy, and I think that it’s the type of movie and the depth of performance that could be considered for an Oscar. But even if it isn’t, it is a heartfelt human drama that takes you into a moment in time in the lives of these amazing characters and it does so with grace and humour.
And then there is Fred, the one-eyed cat.